The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy


Sal P. Restivo

Parallels and Paradoxes in Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism: I - A Critical Reconnaissance

Social Studies of Science 8 (2)

May, 1978, 143-18 1.




Parallelism in Perspective

Physics and Mysticism

Bootstrap and Buddhism

Pitfalls of Parallelism: Initial Observations

Space-Time Parallelism

Complementarity Parallelism


Oneness, Totality, and Interpenetration

Knowing and Consciousness

Anticipation or Convergence?





This paper is a prolegomenon to a study of the social origins and functions of the thesis that there are parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism.  Interest in the parallelism thesis has been growing, but with an emphasis on advocacy as opposed to critical analysis.  Advocates of parallelism such as Fritjof Capra have failed to take account of the pitfalls associated with drawing parallels between science and religion, or physics and mysticism.  My basic objective in this paper is to establish a preliminary foundation for social studies of parallellsm.  I outline the parallelism thesis, emphasizing physics-mysticism parallelism, identify several pitfalls in the parallelism arguments, and suggest reasons for moderating the skepticism which emerges from the pitfalls analysis.



The thesis that there are parallels between physics and mysticism (‘parallelism’) has become a strong counterpoint to the counterculture critique of science, and to anti-science and anti-religion sentiments and movements.  Parallelism is an important intellectual current at the interface of science and religion, theology, and mysticism.  The nature of parallelism is, however, unclear.  Parallelists have not reflected critically on the nature and origins of their claims.  At the same time, students of science and society have not been attracted to the study of parallelism.  One reason for this, perhaps, is that until recently parallelism has been (1) peripheral to the mainstream history of ideas, nourished to a great extent in the literature of the occult- and pseudo-sciences, and (2) characterized by extravagant claims, such as Sung’s thesis that the central ideas of modern science are presaged in the I Ching, and Beau’s argument that Einstein’s theories were anticipated by one of the Yellow Emperor’s advisors forty-five hundred years ago. [1]  This situation is changing, and parallelist arguments are increasingly


being presented and debated in scholarly as well as popular forums. [2]  The synthesis of mysticism and science is also the guiding idea behind the recent founding of educational-spiritual communities such as the Lindisfarne Association. [3]  Parallelism has been strengthened by the observations of eminent scientists on complementarity and convergence between science and religion in general, and between physics and mysticism in particular. [4]

This growing interest, advocacy, and activity suggest the possibilities for sociological studies of parallelism.  Such studies cannot, however, be undertaken without first considering problems which arise because of the generally uncritical nature of the arguments for parallelism.  The present paper, the first of a projected two-part series, is therefore a critical introduction to contemporary physics-mysticism parallelism, and the pitfalls of parallelist claims.  It constitutes a prolegomenon to the sociological study of parallelism in two respects.  First, it is an introduction to the literature on parallelism which includes the identification of potential problem-areas for sociologists of knowledge and science.  Second, it draws attention to some of the pitfalls of parallelism which must be taken into account by sociologists interested in the relationships between physics and mysticism, and in the social origins and functions of parallelism.  I am currently engaged in a study of the social origins and functions of physics-mysticism parallelism; this will be reported on in the second part of this paper, and published separately.  Some of the questions guiding this research are noted in my conclusion.

This paper focuses on physics-mysticism parallelism.  One reason for this focus is that physics-mysticism parallelism juxtaposes the paradigmatic science and the paradigmatic spiritual experience, commonly supposed to be opposing modes of consciousness and knowing.  Within physics, elementary particle theory has received the special attention of parallelists.  This reflects the manner in which this field is characterized by some distinguished physicists. Jean-Pierre Vigier, for example, describes elementary particle theory as the most modern theory in high-energy physics, among the most advanced of all physical theories, and the theory most relevant to the experimental validation of our assumptions about the deep nature of matter. [5This view, coupled with speculations by physicists such as Wigner on the relevance of consciousness to descriptions and interpretations of atomic phenomena, could help to explain why physicists have been drawn to explorations of states of


consciousness - including mysticism - and why, simultaneously, mystics and students of consciousness have been listening to physicists. [6]  There are other related reasons which justify an emphasis on physics-mysticism parallelism, and the assumption that this will bring the problem and prospects of the thesis into the sharpest focus: (1) even in generalized versions of parallelism, science is often a synonym for physics, especially quantum and/or relativity theory; (2) recent developments in parallelism have centred around the physics-mysticism version; and (3) one of the most interesting developments in parallelism is the attempt to draw a connection between the ‘bootstrap’ hypothesis in high-energy physics and Eastern mysticism.

My objectives are (1) to outline the parallelism thesis, emphasizing the claims for physics-mysticism parallels; (2) to point out the pitfalls of the comparative method that is the basis of parallelism; and (3) to consider whether the skepticism suggested by the analysis of pitfalls is justified, given the increasing interest in relational theory.



Parallelism is not a new phenomenon.  Before examining the specific version which is the subject of this paper, I want briefly to note the place of parallelism within the general area of studies in science and religion.

Ian Barbour has distinguished three basic ways of viewing the relations between science and religion. [7]  One view is that science and religion are radically different.  The three basic orientations in this ‘contrasts’ perspective are (1) neo-orthodox theology, which emphasizes the uniqueness of revelation; (2) existentialism, which distinguishes science and religion in terms of the distinction between personal existence and impersonal objects; and (3) linguistic analysis, which emphasizes the functional differences between scientific and religious languages. [8]  A second viewpoint is that the existence of God can be inferred from scientific discoveries.  This view has its historical roots in the harmony between science and religion expressed in the works of the seventeenth-century ‘virtuosi’, including Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton.  Modern representatives of this ‘natural theology’ include Arthur Compton and Arthur Eddington. [9]  The third viewpoint identified


by Barbour and championed by liberal theologians and process philosophers emphasizes general methodological parallels between science and religion.  Liberal theologians, for example, claim that science and religion in general are characterized by empiricism, rationalism, and the critical interpretation of human experience.  They also claim that science and religion are both characterized by presuppositions and moral commitments. [10]  It is interesting to note that the elements of Whitehead’s process philosophy appear in the later arguments for physics-mysticism parallelism, particularly in the bootstrap-Buddhism thesis which I will discuss in some detail.  These elements include the view of the world as a process in becoming, reality as a set of interconnected events, a relational conception of things, organicism (as opposed to mechanicism), and the self-creation of events. [11]

There are other versions of parallelism which vary in generality and strength.  R.G.H. Siu’s discussion of ‘the tao of science,’ for example, is a relatively weak version of parallelism in which science and Taoism are considered ‘supplementary’. [12]  Stronger versions of parallelism emphasize complementarity, or convergence.  Parallelist claims can also be classified by the extent to which they refer to science and/or religion.  Townes, for example, compares science and religion; Siu relates Taoism to science; Capra compares bootstrap physics with Mahayana Buddhism; and LeShan compares the world views of physicists and mystics.  The following outline of physics-mysticism parallelism draws primarily on Capra’s The Tao of Physics (1975).



When the physicist Niels Bohr, author of the complementarity principle, was knighted in 1947 he chose for his coat-of-arms the familiar yin-yang symbol (t’ai-chi), and the inscription, ‘Contraria Sunt Complementa’ - opposites are complementary.  Capra seizes on these choices as (1) an acknowledgment by Bohr of the harmony between Eastern wisdom and Western science, and (2) a dramatic symbolization of his thesis that the principal ideas of modern physics ‘confirm,’ ‘rediscover,’ or otherwise parallel the ideas of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.  Capra argues that this is true of the relationship between modern physics and mysticism in general.  He focuses on Eastern mysticism (used synonymously with Eastern


wisdom, thought, philosophy, and religion) because of its centrality as a cultural force in contrast to the cultural marginality of mysticism in the West. [13]

The basic parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism that Capra identifies are (1) organicism, an ‘ecological,’ or ‘wholistic’ view of reality; (2) paradoxes (for example wave-particle duality in physics; Koans in Zen Buddhism) that resist logical resolution, appear to be inherent in non-ordinary reality, and are fundamental sources of insights; (3) transcendence of ordinary language and reasoning, and of traditional ideas of space, time, isolated objects and events, and causality (the worlds of the very small, the very big, and the very fast in physics, and the states of higher consciousness in mysticism are on a non-ordinary level of reality); (4) space-time (mystics, according to Capra, have an intuitive comprehension of the modern relativistic concept of four-dimensional space-time); (5) oneness, the idea that the infinite variety of things in the universe manifests one ultimate reality (referred to as Brahman by Hindus, Dharmakaya by Buddhists, Tao by Taoists, and the unified field equation by physicists); and (6) empiricism, manifested as reliance on experimental methods in physics, and on meditative insights in mysticism (variously referred to as ‘watching,’ ‘looking,’ and ‘seeing’ rather than ‘thinking’).  In addition, Capra identifies the following ‘equivalencies’ in, respectively, modern physics and Eastern mysticism: (1) the quantum field and ch’i; (2) the ‘physical vacuum’ and the Great Void; (3) S-matrix theory and the I Ching; (4) complementarity and Tao; and (5) the bootstrap model in high-energy physics and Buddhism: this equivalency will be discussed below.

The evidence for these parallels consists of statements from primary and secondary sources on how Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and physicists ‘see’ reality. [14]  Capra admits that such statements cannot serve as rigorous demonstrations for his thesis.  He relies on them, however, to stimulate an appreciation of parallelism as a subjective experience.  This is Capra’s objective in juxtaposing statements on physics and mysticism and drawing attention to common images of reality.  Two illustrative examples are: (1) the metaphor of the cosmic dance, and (2) statements on the physical vacuum, and ch’i.

The familiar bubble chamber photographs from the laboratories of high-energy physicists are manifestations of the complex world of elementary particles.  That world is, theoretically, more


complicated than the patterns observed in the bubble chamber because certain particles which are exchanged in particle interactions - so-called ‘virtual particles’ - are not observed.  Thus, the Feynman (network) diagrams that schematically represent particle interactions are more complex than the patterns observed in the laboratory because they take virtual particles into account.  Capra quotes from physicist Kenneth Ford’s comments on such a diagram: ‘Every proton occasionally goes through exactly this dance of creation and destruction’. [15]  Such dance imagery, Capra points out, is not uncommon in modern physics; ‘energy dance’ for example, is another term used to describe particle interactions.  Dance imagery is also important in mysticism.  Capra refers in particular to one of the most impressive examples of dance imagery from the perspective of parallelism, The Dance of Shiva. Shiva is the multi-armed Hindu god whose dance of creation and destruction is captured in a wide variety of bronze sculptures dating from the tenth century.  The Dance of Shiva conveys the Hindu conception of reality as a continuous process of creation and destruction.  According to Capra, this parallels the modern physicist’s conception of self-interacting particles emitting and absorbing virtual particles in an energy dance that is the foundation of physical reality. [16]

The parallelist method of juxtaposed quotations is illustrated by the following statements on quantum field theory and ch’i; the first is by the physicist W. Thirring, the second by the eleventh century Chinese sage, Chang Tsai: [17]

(1) The field exists always and everywhere; it can never be removed.  It is the carrier of all material phenomena.  It is the ‘void’ out of which the proton creates the pi-mesons.  Being and fading of particles are merely forms of motion of the field.

(2) When one knows that the Great Void is full of ch’i, one realizes that there is no such thing as nothingness.

The following description of Capra’s case study of bootstrap and Buddhism provides a more detailed view of the methods and theses of parallelism.



The bootstrap hypothesis, formulated by Geoffrey Chew, is that there are no fundamental entities (for example laws, particles, fields, principles, equations) in nature. [18]  Capra considers this hypothesis to be the culmination of changes in our view of nature initiated by the introduction of the interrelational concepts of quantum theory, developed further in the relativistic explanation of quantum dynamics, and carried further still by the introduction of reaction probabilities in S-matrix theory. [19]

The basic characteristics of the bootstrap model are: (1) a conception of nature as a self-consistent whole (that is, all of physics is conceived to follow from one requirement - namely, that its components be consistent with themselves and one another, thus eliminating, ideally, the need for arbitrary, in the sense of unexplained, parameters such as the fundamental constants); (2) an approximation that neglects electromagnetic, weak, and gravitational interactions and focuses on the strong interactions (the rationale for this approximation being related to the fact that the strong interactions are stronger by many orders of magnitude than the others: since the strongly interacting particles are known as hadrons, this approximation is called the ‘hadron bootstrap’); (3) hadrons are composites, hadrons are constituents of hadrons; and hadrons are a binding force between hadrons (based on the conception of a force between two particles as an exchange of other particles; in this case the exchanged particles are conceived to be hadrons); the name ‘bootstrap’ is derived from this picture of a set of hadrons which generates itself, that is, ‘pulls itself up by the bootstrap’; (4) the hadron dynamism is ‘circular and violently nonlinear,’ with no free parameters: it is self-determining (that is, it can be realized in one, and only one, way), and therefore the only possible set of hadrons is the set in nature; [20] (5) hadronic properties follow uniquely from self-consistency (bootstrap), and do not have to be introduced as fundamental quantities (that is, as ‘basic building blocks of nature’); following Gell-Mann’s suggestion, this idea is referred to as ‘nuclear democracy,’ and is opposed to ‘aristocratic atomic physics’. [21]

In contrast to bootstrappers, fundamentalist high-energy physicists are committed to the search for basic building blocks.  They accept the traditional view of fundamental constants (for example the velocity of light, the mass of the electron, and the


magnitude of the electron’s charge) as empirically determined and theoretically unexplained.  The value for the velocity of light, for example, is not explained in relativity theory.  Bootstrappers argue that, ideally, all so-called fundamental constants should be explained in terms of the self-consistency hypothesis. [22]

Capra argues that the fundamentalist view is rooted in the ways of Western science, which in turn reflects traditions that spring from the Greek heritage; the bootstrap model, by contrast, is more consistent with Eastern modes of thought.  In particular, Capra stresses the parallels between the bootstrap model and Mahayana Buddhism, which is later, more complex, and more other-worldly than Hinayana Buddhism.  Capra follows Buddhist scholars such as D.T. Suzuki and E. Conze in viewing Mahayana Buddhism, represented in the Avatamsaka Sutra, as the culmination of Buddhist thought, sentiment, and experience.  More specifically, Capra, following Suzuki and Chang, considers Mahayana Buddhism (especially in the Hwa-Yen school of China) to be the fullest elaboration and clearest expression of the Buddhist idea that all things and events are interrelated and part of a ‘unity’ or ‘totality’. [23]

From Capra’s parallelist perspective, the most important idea in the Avatamsaka Sutra, especially with respect to the bootstrap model, is ‘interpenetration’.  This idea is expressed in the 2,500 year old metaphor of ‘Indra’s net’.  Indra is a Hindu god who appears as a protector of Buddhism in many sutras.  His ‘heaven’ (or the cover over his ‘celestial palace’) is portrayed as a network of jewels arranged in such a way that looking at any one you can see all the others reflected in it.  This metaphor reminds us that ‘In every particle of dust, there are present Buddhas without number’.  This, according to Capra, is the same non-ordinary idea bootstrappers have of hadronic reality.  Following a review of the various formulations of the bootstrap idea, including the technical S-matrix formulation, Capra concludes that bootstrap can be ‘… summed up in the provocative phrase, “every particle consists of all other particles”.’ [24]

In concluding his argument for parallelism, Capra speculates on the possibility of going beyond the transformation of the scientist from observer to participant, wrought by modern physics.  Chew himself, in fact, conjectures that by logical extension the bootstrap model implies that the existence of consciousness is necessary for self-consistency in the universe.  This points the way toward


explicitly incorporating consciousness into physical theories, a speculation endorsed by Wigner. [25]  This entails the transformation of the bootstrap model into a vision transcending ordinary realms of thought and language, bringing science into the Mahayana world of the unthinkable, ‘acintya’.

Having outlined the basic ideas of physics-mysticism parallelism, I want now to turn to a consideration of pitfalls in the data, methods, and assumptions of parallelism, and to a fuller exploration of the comparisons Capra and other parallelists rely on in their arguments.



The basic data for parallelism consist of common language (for example English) statements on the nature and implications of physics and mysticism, varying in technical content.  The methodology of parallelism is the comparative analysis of such statements.  Similar rhetoric, imagery, and metaphoric content in such statements constitute the evidence for parallelism.  The basic assumption in this approach is that if the rhetorical, imagery, and metaphoric content of statements on physics and mysticism is similar, the conceptual content must be similar, and the experience of reality must also be similar among physicists and mystics.  Earlier I cited Capra’s comparison of statements by Thirring and Chang Tsai.  Perhaps the most ambitious application of this method occurs in Needham’s studies on Chinese and modern science, characterized by the continuing discovery of Whiteheadian philosophy, dialectical thought, and anticipatory scientific attitudes, concepts, and methods in Chinese texts.  This requires searching for, selecting, and translating materials for comparative analysis. [26]  At least three difficulties accompany this requirement.  One is that representativeness must be achieved first in selecting a particular piece of literature, and then in selecting a particular word, sentence, or paragraph.  No rigorous sampling procedures have guided such selections, nor am I aware that any have been proposed with respect to the specific problem of parallelism.  In the case of ancient texts, such procedures are not readily applicable due to fragmentation and corruption, as well as to the uncertainties about what texts existed, and still exist undiscovered.  Independent judgments of representativeness based on textual (internalist) and contextual


(sociocultural) knowledge could help, but have not been systematically cultivated by parallelists.

A second and more serious pitfall arises in actually comparing statements.  Comparable common language statements have to be derived from the mathematical formalism and specialized language of physics, and from the meditative insights of mysticism.  In addition, the literature of and on mysticism will in some cases have to be translated from several common languages.  In the case of Buddhism, for example, original texts and major translations are written in Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Japanese, Apabrahmsa, and Chinese.  This is further complicated by the problem of juxtaposing statements written at different times, sometimes centuries apart.  The problems with respect to Buddhism and other Eastern religio-philosophical traditions have been widely noted. [27]  As for physics, most contemporary physicists probably share Feynman’s despair of communicating the laws of nature to persons ignorant of mathematics. [28]  There may be some, though it is unlikely, who share the views expressed, I believe, by Rutherford, that if a theory is good you should be able to explain it to a barmaid!  Einstein falls, perhaps, between these extremes in terms of his interest in and capacity for translating the formalism of relativity into English sentences.  Under these conditions, it is perhaps reasonable to expect adequacy (if not perfection) in translation, but naive to assume that the comparability of translations can be taken for granted.  Some effort must be made to arrive at a sense of the validity of the assumed comparability of statements.  This would necessarily involve consideration of the relationship between culture and cognition. [29]  Parallelists have not addressed themselves to these questions.

The physicist’s claim that the worlds of quantum mechanics and relativity are mathematical worlds which cannot ‘honestly’ (to borrow Feynman’s language) be described or visualized in terms of common languages and ordinary experiences should not be taken lightly.  Neither should we dismiss the mystic’s ultimate silence about non-ordinary experiences.  It would be foolhardy to assert dogmatically that physics and mysticism cannot be put into words, now or ever.  In any case, attempts are made to put non-ordinary mystical experiences into the words of ordinary experiences; and physicists do write and talk about their mathematical universe in highly technical physical terms as well as ‘everyday’ vocabularies. These attempts produce parallels across time and culture.  The ways


in which ordinary words compromise the non-ordinary experiences of physicists and mystics need to be considered more carefully than they have been in advocating and evaluating parallelism. [30]

The third pitfall in comparing statements is contamination.  Modern mystics are at least aware of references to the concepts of modern physics that have filtered into the language of our everyday world, especially those regarding space, time, and causality.  Some mystics are well-versed in the mathematical formalism of modern physics.  At the same time, modern physicists have come into contact - directly and indirectly - with the ideas of mysticism.  Gell-Mann, for example, uses the term ‘eightfold way,’ paralleling ‘eightfold way’ or ‘eightfold path’ in Buddhism, in his application of group theory to the study of elementary particles.  The parallel in this case is purely linguistic. [31]

‘Levels of reality’ hypotheses are relevant to the issue of translation in parallelism.  There is a controversy among physicists concerning the extent to which the nature of a given level of physical reality, expressed in a level-appropriate language, can be coordinated with the nature of another level (or other levels) to give a more general theory of nature.  The idea of ‘level-appropriate languages’ makes translation problematic.  Indeed, some students of science (for example Feyerabend, and to a certain extent Kuhn) have suggested that ‘translatability’ is virtually impossible.  It may, however, as Graves suggests, make sense to assume that ontic levels are not completely independent, and that, therefore, cognitive levels are not completely independent. [32]  Any given level-appropriate language will contain certain general abstractions and idealizations rooted more in cognitive processes than in external realities.  In general, Graves argues, it makes sense to assume that there are commonalities across levels and that these are reflected in language.

Graves’ insistence that each level of reality is characterized by an appropriate language with distinctive terms and relations, or laws, does not imply that there are no common terms or relations in linking level-appropriate languages.  He contends, in fact, that most terms are cross-level terms applicable to a variety of, and in some cases all, levels.  In terms of the parallelism argument, we are faced with three questions: (1) can we consider mysticism and physics to be operating on different levels of reality; (2) does it make sense to consider these levels of reality ‘bounded’ (that is, part of one reality or realm of reality in which Graves’ assumptions apply); or


(3) do mysticism and physics operate within distinctly bounded realms of reality (‘separate realities’) for which there are no cross-level terms and relations?  The latter case may hold, for example, if there are two realms of reality, one open to symbolic consciousness and expressible in language, and one open to non-symbolic consciousness and not expressible in language.  This idea will be discussed further in a later section.

Finally, parallelists and critics of parallelism will have to consider the functions of language.  The centrality of language -including the language of mathematics - as a medium of communication about reality is well established in science.  Language may be more or less abstract, more or less remote from the world of our senses, but it reflects reality and can be used to say significant things about the nature of reality.  Language may have a different function in mysticism.  Chang, for example, refers to the ‘fountainhead’ of Prajnaparamita teaching (the perfection of Wisdom, the paramount practice and virtue of the practitioner - Bodhisattva -of Mahayana Buddhism) as ‘direct seeing’, an intuitive experience ‘intrinsically beyond words and symbols’.  Yet words must be used to communicate the Bodhisattva’s experience to other humans.  This dilemma is manifested in the practice of making a statement and repudiating it immediately.  The result is a literature brimming with paradoxes and contradictions.  If these are interpreted in terms of the function of language in scientific discourse, the ‘Prajna truth’ and mysticism in general appear to be a string of absurdities.  If, on the other hand, language in mysticism is applied to transcending the limitations and inadequacies of ordinary experience, then the situation not only lacks absurdity, but appears incompatible with the assumption of translatability and comparability in parallelism.  In addition, Chang has drawn attention to the difficulties that have arisen when philosophers have insisted on treating Buddhist concepts such as ‘anatman’ (No-Self) as philosophical concepts rather than as meditational, or therapeutic devices.  Conze also stresses the subordination of philosophy to a soteriological imperative. [33Parallelists have not attended to such distinctions, and have therefore failed to show why functional linguistic differences are irrelevant to their comparative search for conceptual equivalencies.

Linguistic pitfalls arise specifically in the comparative analysis of verbal accounts of experiences in physics and mysticism.  Comparing statements in the absence of experience with physics and/or


mysticism obviously heightens the dangers of such pitfalls.  But experience in one or both or these realms does not eliminate the pitfalls.  The problem of translating experiences into words for oneself and for others remains. [34]  This is a rich problem-area for sociologists, but one which demands a rare combination of expertise in sociolinguistics, fluency in physics and mysticism, and experience in the physical and mystical realms.



One of the frequently cited parallels between modern physics and mysticism is the space-time parallel.  Capra, for example, argues that modern physics and Eastern mysticism reflect an awareness of the intimate interconnectedness and interpenetration of space and time.  The idea found in the Avatamsaka Sutra that there is no space without time and no time without space parallels the view expressed by Minkowski that space by itself and time by itself are ‘mere shadows’. [35]  On the surface, such parallels are hardly deniable.  Graves, however, reminds us that we are dealing with ‘supposed translational equivalents’.  The semantics and syntax of ‘space’ and ‘time’ in Plato or the Buddhist sutras on the one hand, and in Einstein, Minkowski, or Wheeler on the other, are radically different. [36]  In physics, the conceptual transformation of ‘space’ and ‘time’ has rested heavily on mathematization.  There is no reason to suppose that this process of conceptual evolution has ended in physics.  But there is no indication that the non-ordinary experience of space and time in mysticism is any different for the novitiate today than it was for the ancients.  Mysticism does not seem to hold the same inherent promise of a surprising new conception of space and time that physics does.

The mystic’s experience of space-time unity may arise from the suspension of ordinary ways of ‘attending’ to the world.  C.O. Evans has characterized ordinary symbolic consciousness as ‘attention deflection’ [37]

each experience of an event itself causes attention to switch to the experience of another event, and in turn that experience of an event further causes attention to switch to yet another event in an endless concatenation of attention deflections.

The process of attention deflection, according to Evans, is the


source of ‘meaning’.  Evans hypothesizes that mystical experiences indicate that it is possible to suspend attention deflection, and to attend to the world in a way he describes as ‘absorptive’ attention.  Absorptive attention is non-symbolic consciousness, consciousness that cannot be communicated in symbols.  The structure of consciousness (in what Polanyi refers to as ‘subsidiary awareness’ and ‘focal attention’) is dissolved when attention deflection is inhibited or suspended. [38]  Evans’ theory suggests that the unity of space and time experienced by mystics has nothing to do with relativistic notions, but is rather the result of absorptive attention.

Evans’ distinction between symbolic (attention deflection) consciousness, and non-symbolic (absorptive attention) consciousness seems to be the same as Chang’s distinction between ordinary ‘one-at-a-time’ or ‘shifting realms’ consciousness, and non-ordinary ‘simultaneous-arising’ consciousness. [39]  In ordinary experience, human beings attend to one realm of reality at a time, and shift from realm to realm as the need for new perspectives arises.  Water is a liquid, or H20, or the product of electronic movements - but never all of these at the same time.  The Mind of Buddhahood, by contrast, experiences all realms interpenetrating harmoniously in the truths of ‘simultaneous arising’ and ‘simultaneous non-obstruction.’  This experience, following Evans, may reflect a human ability to inhibit or suspend attention deflection.  This suggests that the mystical experience of space-time is the product of absorptive attention and not of the type of conceptual evolution which characterizes the physicist’s experience of space and time.  Mystics may indeed experience space-time as a four-dimensional continuum.  It is not clear, however, that their experience is conceptually equivalent to the continuum experienced by physicists in thinking about physical reality and rendering their mathematical formalism.



Nowhere are the pitfalls of parallelism better highlighted than in ‘complementarity parallelism’, perhaps the most widely discussed and debated version of the thesis.  Complementarity parallelism is based on the idea of complementarity in quantum theory, introduced by Bohr at a 1927 conference in Como, Italy, commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Allessandro Volta’s death.  In his


lecture, Bohr said:

The very nature of the quantum theory thus forces us to regard the space-time coordination and the claim of causality, the union of which characterizes the classical theories, as complementary but exclusive features of the description symbolizing the idealization of observation and definition respectively. [40]

This idea has spawned a literature in which complementarity is applied to the relations between science and religion, between different religions, and between different aspects of religious traditions. [41]  While some proponents of complementarity parallels have attempted to identify Bohr’s views carefully and unequivocally, they have generally been too intent on defending analogies to examine the pitfalls of their efforts.  They have little to say about (1) the fact that Bohr himself never defined ‘complementarity’ clearly and unequivocally; (2) Einstein’s despair of grasping the principle of complementarity in spite of ‘much effort’, and (3) the exchange between C.F. von Weizsacker and Bohr, following von Weizsacker’s conclusion in a comprehensive article on complementarity (written in celebration of Bohr’s 70th birthday) that he had misinterpreted the principle for twenty-five years; upon asking Bohr whether his revised interpretation was valid, he received a negative reply. [42]

In considering this particular problem in parallelism, it is useful to note Jammer’s distinction between the ‘complementarity interpretation’ in quantum physics, and the notion of ‘complementary pairs’ in the history of ideas.  Examples of the latter range from Zeno’s paradoxes, to the medieval idea, ‘duplex veritas,’ taught by the Averroists and discussed by Duns Scotus and Siger of Brabant.  Jammer points out that the ‘complementarity interpretation’ is distinguished from complementary thought in general by (1) the fact that it is rooted in empirical findings rather than ‘merely abstract speculation’; (2) the specificity of the idea in terms of the impossibility of reconciling causal analysis and a space-time description; and (3) the link between complementary descriptions and complementary experimental arrangements. [43]

In general, the case of complementarity underscores the dangers of generalizing ideas or concepts which (1) have not been rigorously defined within their original realm of application; (2) are, insofar as they are explicitly defined or rigorously conceptualized, specific to the substance, logic, methods, and theories of their original realm; and (3) may appear superficially to have a kinship with very general patterns of human thought (for example the complement-


tary pairs notion) but which, because in part of the second point on specificity, may actually represent a different and perhaps a new pattern.  The case of complementarity leads to another problem in parallelism, the function of ‘paradoxes’ in physics and mysticism.



Complementarity parallels have been drawn on to show that science and religion both deal in paradoxes.  Austin, for example, explored the possibility of adopting a complementarist approach to paradoxes in religion, such as the idea that the Christian God is both a rigorous judge and a merciful father.  He was criticized by physicist James Park who argued that there are no paradoxes in quantum mechanics, and that Austin’s use of complementarity as a device for dealing with paradoxes had nothing to do with physics. [44]  Nonetheless, the literature of modern physics is filled with references to paradoxes.  The term appears in the titles of philosophical as well as technical treatises on physics, in the text of numerous papers and chapters, and in ‘problems’ such as Schrodinger’s ‘cat paradox’ in quantum theory and the ‘clock paradox’ in relativity theory. [45]  It is easy to see, therefore, why Capra identifies paradoxes as one of the parallelisms linking physics and mysticism.  Granted that paradoxes appear in the literature of physics and mysticism, the question arises whether they have the same or different functions in the two fields.  The parallelist contention that they have the same functions in physics and mysticism is not readily justified.  Paradoxes in mysticism are generally part of the nature of things.  In physics, by contrast, they are subject to study with the expectation that they will be ‘resolved’ - that is, brought into the sphere of rational comprehension through the development of new levels of awareness associated with advances in mathematics and physical theory.  This orientation to paradoxes in physics is easily established.  D’Espagnat, for example, applauded the Copenhagen interpretation in quantum physics because it emphasized formulating questions in terms of conceptually possible experiments and had as one of its consequences the avoidance of ‘spurious paradoxes and ambiguities’. [46]  Bohr, noting that contemporary scientific theory characteristically had to be ‘sufficiently foolish’ to be justified, conceived scientific progress as a process of removing foolishness


and paradox from concepts.  Similarly, Einstein envisaged scientific progress as a process of running away from ‘miracles’. [47]

Mystics seem to be intent on keeping paradoxes intact or using them as devices for enlightenment.  This seems to be the case for the Koans of the Zen master.  Capra stresses this usage in Zen, but at the same time fails to represent the function of paradoxes in physics accurately.  He treats the ‘wave-particle duality’ in a way that underscores its ‘mystery’ and obscures the ‘resolution’ of this alleged paradox in modern physics.

The parallelist approach to paradoxes encounters a further and complicating difficulty in the predilection of Hwa Yen Buddhists for ‘resolving’ Zen-type paradoxes.  Chang notes that Zen monks turn to Hwa Yen for spiritual guidance through the ‘bewildering’ Zen Path and sensible solutions to ‘abstruse’ Zen problems. [48]  Perhaps there is a case here for someone who wants to argue for a paradox parallelism in terms of an orientation to resolution.  In any case, there are pitfalls here which reflect the existence of different viewpoints on the nature and functions of paradoxes in physics and mysticism.



One of the core arguments for parallelism rests on the correlation between (1) the essential teachings of mysticism on oneness or unity, totality, and interpenetration, and (2) the ‘wholistic’ direction of modern physical theories, especially bootstrap physics and monistic geometrodynamics.  Capra considers the essence of the Eastern world view to be an awareness of unity in the things and events of everyday experience.  The parallel with physics is based on the view that quantum theory has (1) abolished the idea of separated entities; (2) introduced first the observer, then the participant, and most recently consciousness into the heart of physical description and explanation; and (3) stimulated the articulation of a wholistic view of mental and physical relations.  The bootstrap idea of ‘self-consistency,’ in Capra’s view, is not unlike the mystical idea of the unity and interrelation of all things, a parallel he discusses under the subject of ‘interpenetration’. [49]

In Hwa Yen Buddhism, there are several notions which bear on this particular argument for parallelism. These are (1) mutual entering: all things and principles are mutually dependent and in-


terpenetrating (‘mutual immanence’); (2) dependent-arisings: all things exist conditionally and momentarily, and have no ‘selfhood’ or ‘true being’; this concept simultaneously represents the doctrine of (3) Sunyata, that is, Voidness, or Emptiness: this does not mean ‘nothingness’ or ‘annihilation,’ but rather ‘no-thing-ness’; in the words of Nagurjuna (the founder of Mahayana Buddhism):

It is because of Emptiness

That all things and events can be established.

Without Emptiness nothing can be established. [50]

This conception of the Void as the source of all things, as I noted earlier, is correlated by Capra with the notion of ‘field’ in modern quantum physics.

The basis for correlating these ideas in mysticism with the concepts of modern physics is based on references by Bohm and others to the requirement in quantum theory that the universe be treated as ‘a single, indivisible unit’. [51]  One basic question this idea raises concerns whether we are dealing with an updated version of ‘wholism’ in physics, or with a new concept which transcends the cycles of ‘wholes and parts’ approaches in the history of ideas.  Max Jammer suggests that we are dealing with something new.  He notes that the relational conception of ‘state’ in quantum theory, as initially outlined by David Bohm, is unique because it renounces the classical analytical principle variously stated as ‘dissecto resolutivo’ (Galileo), and Descartes’ Second Rule of Investigation.  In general relativity theory, a comparable development has occurred with the emergence of an apparent need for a continuum ontology.  Graves views this as unique in the history of physical theory.  He echoes Bohm on quantum theory and Chew on bootstrap physics when he speculates that modern general relativity - or geometrodynamics -  may require that the universe always be treated as a whole.  This would be the case if it turns out that no arbitrarily specificiable boundary conditions can be established for general relativity theory.  Intuitively, at least, this seems to be akin to the self-consistency requirement in bootstrap physics. [52]

Graves provides more grist for the parallelist mill by conceiving geometrodynamics as a monistic theory in which space-time, ‘like’ ch’i, the Great Void, the quantum field, and the hadron bootstrap, is the source and medium of all interactions.  Its parts act and are acted upon by each other; it is a unified whole with global, topological, and local characteristics, and it is the only thing in the


universe that is ‘really real’.  Graves is not a proponent of a static Parmenidian monism, but one which is internally differentiated to a high degree.  It is in this sense different from Spinoza’s ‘God-Substance,’ and lacks the teleological aspect of Hegelian systems. [53]

The general relativity theorist says that the geometrodynamic curvatures extend throughout space-time, and thus each body or source can be conceived to be everywhere at the same time; the Hwa Yen Buddhist conceives the universe in terms of ‘realm-embracing-realm,’ and the ‘all-in-one and the one-in-all’.  The general relativity theorist views boundary conditions as arising from the content of space-time, giving us one self-contained process; the Hwa Yen Buddhist enters Samadhi - the dynamic state of Enlightenment - and is liberated from all ‘obstructions’ or ‘boundaries’. [54]  The gist of all this from the physical side is a conviction among physicists that they are being pressed toward new ways of thinking about, in Feinberg’s terms, systems of ‘many interconnected components’. [55]  Parallelists see this as a movement in the direction of mystical conceptions of reality.

The fundamental pitfall encountered in this instance of parallelism can be considered ‘thematic’, in Holton’s sense.  Holton conceives themata as ‘… fundamental preconceptions of a stable and widely diffused kind that are not resolvable into or derivable from observation and analytic ratiocination’.  Thema are invariably associated with antithema.  Science is conceived to be a dialectic process which, temporary victories for one themata or another notwithstanding, opposes thema and antithema and ‘energizes’ research. [56]  ‘Wholes’ and ‘parts’ can be conceived as thema and antithema (or vice versa), each rising and falling with respect to the other as the history of ideas in general, and of science in particular, unfolds.  The thematic pitfall involves the problem of whether ‘wholism’ in modern physics is similar or otherwise analogous to ‘wholism’ in mysticism, and to ‘wholism’ in pre-modern physics.  Gale, for example, has argued that there are many similarities - or parallels - between Chew’s bootstrap ideas and Leibniz’s conception of monads. [57]  These are the same sorts of parallels Capra and other parallelists point out in comparing bootstrap with Buddhism, as well as with Leibnizian physics.  If we are guided by a Holtonian thematic perspective, we should not be surprised to find such parallels.  It remains to establish whether we are dealing simply with long-established themata, or whether we are dealing with new themes reflecting new orders of human thinking.


This pitfall is perhaps nothing more than the tendency to try to understand the present in terms of the past, the unknown in terms of the known, a tendency manifested in the ease with which we draw analogies within and across all systems of thought.  For the case at hand, one basic reason for questioning these analogies lies in the mathematical requirement of nonlinearity in bootstrap and geometrodynamics, a requirement whose uniqueness suggests that we are not dealing with just another cycle of ‘wholism’ in modern physics.  The conceptual significance of this is that with linearity, sources and effects are independent and can be added.  In the case of geometrodynamics this means that if we are given a total field, we can analyze it uniquely into parts, and assign each part a source.  In the non-linear situation, we could not expect to break up the field into a set of independent parts.  It would have to be treated as a whole. [58]

Bohm is the most explicit among ‘new physics’ advocates in suggesting that we are not dealing with a wholism cycle in quantum and relativity theory.  Thinking in terms of wholes and parts and the classical dynamic of analysis and synthesis is no longer valid in Bohm’s view of ‘holonomy,’ a process of theoretical insight in which ‘new wholes’ are continually emerging.  Bohm describes this distinction in terms of the analogical contrast between the lens and the hologram.  The lens brought object and image into sharp relief, and ‘strengthened man’s awareness of the various parts of the object and of the relationships between these parts’; it furthered classical analytic and synthetic thinking.  He argues that, by contrast, in contemporary physics ‘… an instrument tends to be relevant to a whole structure, in a way rather similar to what happens in a hologram’: [59]

There is the germ of a new notion of order here.  This order is not to be understood solely in terms of a regular arrangement of objects (e.g. in rows) or as a regular arrangement of events (e.g. in a series).  Rather, a total order is contained, in some implicit sense, in each region of space and time.

Whether in fact nonlinearity requirements, the integration of consciousness into the laws of physics, and the ‘holonomy’ idea represent (1) a temporary orientation based on the thematic cycle of wholes and parts, or syntheses and analyses, or (2) a true break with or transcendence of that cycle is by no means established.  The suggestion that modern physical ‘wholism’ is unique, however, may vitiate any parallels with thematic wholism in mysticism.  On


the other hand, while mathematical nonlinearity is not a factor in mystical experience, it certainly would not do to assert dogmatically that mystical ‘wholism’ is a standard thema rather than an experience of quite different kind, one that physicists may be converging on.



There are two views of change in the scientific outlook associated with parallelism.  The ‘conservative’ view is that science and mysticism are independent but complementary ways of knowing; they represent, respectively, rationality and intuition.  This viewpoint is reflected in many of the works on complementarity in science and religion referred to in earlier sections of this paper.  The ‘radical’ view is that there are three modes of knowing. Siu, for example, distinguishes rational, intuitive, and no-knowledge modes of knowing.  No-knowledge, according to Siu, is experienced beyond the limits of rational and intuitive modes of knowing.  The realm of no-knowledge is devoid of shape and time, and transcends events and qualities. [60]  It is this realm of the silent apprehension of the ‘undifferentiable whole’ that Capra seems to have in mind when he discusses mysticism, but which he equates with intuition.  A more dynamic version of the radical view of knowing is suggested by Ten Houten and Kaplan.  They view science and mysticism as dialectically interrelated complementarities.  This view is rooted in the idea that one hemisphere of the brain functions primarily in an appositional mode, and the other hemisphere in a primarily propositional mode. [61]  Comprehensive consciousness and knowing, including rational, intuitive, and no-knowledge dimensions, may involve the dialectical interaction of the two hemisphere-specific modes, and may have its physiological basis in the corpus callosum that links the two halves of the brain. [62]  These ideas are speculative.  The ‘modes’ pitfall rests on the fact that we do not have a convincing theory of knowing.  Are there two modes of knowing, three modes, or more?  Are modes of knowing an artifact of analysis rather than a fact of consciousness?  If there are different modes of knowing, how are they interrelated?  What is the relationship between modes of knowing and the structure and function of the brain?  The Ten Houten and Kaplan theory of inquiry, based on studies of the hemispheric functions of the brain, general-


ly supports parallelism.  Their interpretation of so-called ‘split-brain’ research, however, must be scrutinized critically given the lack of a fully-developed and coherent theory of brain functions. [63]  A related issue is the extent to which modes of knowing are inextricably linked with particular relationships between human beings and their surroundings.  Needleman, for example, notes that the fact that some scientists meditate or practice yoga is neither an indication of harmony between physics and mysticism, nor a bridge to the ‘quiet attempt to observe the mind’ some people assume it to be.  This viewpoint is echoed fervently and eloquently by Roszak, who argues that alienation and cultural blight are rooted in the ‘objectified worldview of natural science’ - that is, the physics of Newton, Einstein, and Bohr, and the biology of Darwin, Crick, and Watson. [64]  This suggests that science can only progress through manipulation of the material environment, and that this is fundamentally opposed to and irreconcilable with the religio-mystical approach to ‘appreciating’ reality.  However, science may be moving in a direction that will force us to reassess the degree to which we rely on experimentation to determine the ‘truth value’ of hypotheses.  We may be approaching a time when it will not appear incredible to consider the possibility that ‘truth value’ can be determined by a state of consciousness independent of the direct physical manipulation of variables in experiments.  This notion has been adumbrated in contemporary writings on the philosophy of science such as Holton’s critique of experimenticism, and Hooker’s discussion of non-linguistic dimensions in inquiry.  Ravindra’s position on this question in exemplary:

… whatever we can study from the scientific point of view of manipulation and control - whether it is universe, man or divinity - has been produced, at least partly, according to our plans; it is something that can be compelled by us to yield answers to our questions.  It cannot be higher than us; for that which is higher - in nature no less than in man - can neither be coerced nor violated by us.  We can prepare ourselves for it and wait, actively making an effort of attention, observing without violence. [65]

This position will be rejected by physicists and scientists in general insofar as it expresses a commitment to noumena - ultimately unknowable things-in-themselves.  Mystics and physicists may agree that ordinary sensory experiences must be transcended in order to comprehend reality.  They must part company, it would appear, when and to the extent that the mystic remains ‘constrained’


in quiet appreciation while the physicist presses forward, transcending ordinary experiences and at the same time actively seeking to explain what he experiences.  Any consideration of possible convergences between physics and mysticism must deal with whether, how, and to what extent some version of realism links these two modes of knowing. [66]  Capra’s view that an ‘empiricism parallel’ links physics and mysticism can be considered in the light of this discussion.

Capra claims that physics and mysticism are both strongly observational.  This is not self-evident.  The mystic’s distinction between (1) seeking, looking, and watching, and (2) thinking, may be a semantic trap.  The meditative state might be better described as a state of non-ordinary thinking than as an observational state.  The centrality of mathematical thought in physics (consider Einstein’s work, or the role of group theory in elementary particle physics) could be pointed to in support of the argument that theory rather than experiment, or abstract reasoning rather than observation, is the essence of modern physics.  If there is any parallel here at all, it might more likely lie in the direction of abstract thought rather than empiricism.  It may be that what we are dealing with here is a manifestation of different ways of attending to things, an idea introduced earlier in the section on space-time parallelism.  If this is true, and altered states of consciousness are based on changes in how we attend to things, it may be possible to correlate states of consciousness with criteria for determining ‘truth value,’ and furthermore to show that these criteria are interrelated and interdependent.  This would help to resolve the question of the relationship between physics and mysticism in terms of modes of knowing and consciousness. [67]

The novel and speculative nature of these ideas makes it impossible to rely on them in evaluating parallelism.  They are pitfalls which parallelists and their critics must consider and weigh in establishing their position.




There are two pitfalls of interpretation in parallelism.  One is associated with the assertion that the parallels manifest anticipations - that is, modern physics was anticipated by ancient and more recent mystics.  The second is associated with the idea that


modern physics is converging towards mysticism.  The anticipations thesis looks less and less reasonable the more deeply we examine the parallels.  It reflects weak analogies at best; and these analogies are possible only because there are certain basic and recurring themes in human thought. [68]  One explanation for the apparent convergence of modern physics and mysticism is that as physicists have probed deeper and deeper into nature, they have been forced to abandon more and more of the images and concepts of ordinary experience.  Mystics, however, have been probing non-ordinary reality for centuries.  If it is assumed that the non-ordinary reality open to mystic experience is in the same realm as the non-ordinary reality open to physicists, it should not be surprising to find that the verbal descriptions of reality by physicists and mystics exhibit correspondences.  It is conceivable that such correspondences are implied in Bohm’s speculation that thought processes are critically dependent on quantum-mechanical brain elements, and that they provide direct experience of quantum theory in the way that muscular forces provided direct experience for classical theory. [69]

An alternative explanation is that physics is passing through a stage in which the boundaries of experiences that we have learned to express in common languages are being penetrated, and these experiences are pressures for creating a new, relevant vocabulary.  This is occurring on the level of mathematical formalism and physical theory, and on the level of common language.  If attempts to describe physical reality sound like mysticism, it may be because there are certain general linguistic patterns that people turn to when they have to describe the indescribable.  If this is the case, it is unlikely that physicists will become mystics.  As their inquiries proceed, and their experiences become more ordinary for them and for the general public, the common language can be expected to change and the parallels with mysticism will disappear. [70]

Paradoxes in physics and mysticism may arise at the intersection of the processes of symbolizing and experiencing.  Sooner or later, if we are pressing our inquiries continuously forward, we will be led beyond the limits of our language.  This process will approach some sort of limit in mysticism where the goal is a certain state of consciousness.  But in physics, ideally, new experiences are assessed and internalized, old symbols are transformed, and new symbols are created.  What appears to be a convergence between physics and mysticism may simply reflect the process of transforming and creating symbols, which will lead the physicist on to new intellect-


tual paths that diverge from the current apparent parallels, analogies, and convergences with mysticism.

Physicists, according to Capra, ‘have made a great step towards the world view of the Eastern mystics’. [71The pitfalls I have discussed illustrate that this claim cannot be validated easily.  Even if Capra is, in some sense, correct, it is not intuitively obvious nor logically necessary that the next step (or steps) must be in this same direction.  We must also entertain the possibility that the ‘great step’ was, from the point of view of the future of physics, a step in the wrong direction.


There is, finally, the pitfall of ideology.  Capra, for example, refers to the ‘marked anti-scientific attitude’ of people who are attracted to Eastern mysticism.  One of his objectives in The Tao of Physics is to improve the image of science by showing the essential harmony between modern physics and Eastern mysticism.  There is no need for seekers of wisdom and spirituality, Capra argues, to abandon physics; it too can be a ‘path with a heart’ leading to self-realization and spiritual knowledge. [72]  Parallelism can, therefore, function as a defensive justification for and explanation of the scientific approach, and a device for improving and supporting the image of science and scientists.  Similarly, advocates of religious ‘truth’ have responded to the threat posed by the successes of scientific ‘truth’ by seizing on alleged parallels between religion and science to justify and explain their ways of thinking and behaving.  This is illustrated in the literature on complementarity in science and religion reviewed earlier in this paper.  I will treat this problem more fully in the sequel to this paper.


The pitfalls I have identified indicate that the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism may be spurious for reasons ranging from semantics to ideology.  Evidence and logic do not support the idea that mystics have anticipated modern physicists.  The fact that it is possible to identify parallels, analogies, and convergence between modern physics and mysticism may reflect a tem-


porary condition in modern physical theory.  Physics, and science in general, can be expected to develop and change in fundamental ways under the imperative of pressing inquiry ever forward.  Mysticism, by contrast, appears to have arrived at certain ‘ultimate’ experiences and truths, at least within the boundaries of current human biological potentials, under a soteriological imperative that subordinates, ignores, and subverts active, open-ended inquiry.  This does not mean that parallelism must be firmly and finally rejected as a manifestation of substantive linkages between physics and mysticism.  In concluding, I wish to explore some reasons for moderating the skepticism prompted by considering the pitfalls of parallelism.

The Ten Houten-Kaplan outlook on inquiry suggests that modern physicists, more so than their predecessors, may be working on or toward the level of transcendental, or ‘higher’ brain functions.  Mathematical formalism may, at the frontiers of modern physical theory, involve mental functions different from those associated with the capacities of either brain hemisphere, or with the ‘normal’ capacities of the brain revealed in ordinary experiences.  Mystics may be tapping the same higher level functions.  It may be that such experiences have the potential for revealing the ‘deep structure’ of the universe.  This would follow from the hypothesis that the brain as a whole and the universe as a whole are related isomorphically.  The implication of this hypothesis is that the greater the degree to which the full potential of the brain is actualized, the greater will be the degree to which the ‘deep structure’ of the universe will be revealed.  This idea is not unrelated to the bootstrap notion that consciousness is embedded in the system of self-consistency we understand as the universe.  A ‘limited isomorphism’ would probably be more consistent with an evolutionary viewpoint in the sense that the human brain is not (and perhaps cannot be) in total and perfect correspondence with a universe which is evolving, and very likely in advance of the capacity of consciousness to keep up with it.  Isomorphism, even in the ‘limited’ sense, coupled with the operation of physicists and mystics on the level of higher brain functions, would help to explain and support parallelism.  The substance of these speculations would hold even if, instead of being close to tapping the full potential of the brain, we were witnessing a ‘leap’ to a broader and deeper comprehension that falls short of what is ultimately possible.  The best way to characterize what is happening to our capacity for comprehension from the speculative


perspective I have sketched may be ‘relationalism’.

Parallelism may be a direct or indirect manifestation of the emergence of a relational way of viewing reality.  Relationalism may be either (1) a manifestation of some fundamental themata (in the Holtonian sense), perhaps ‘wholism,’ that has been at times central and at times peripheral in the history of ideas, or (2) a new themata, as suggested in my earlier discussion of non-linearity and Bohm’s notion of ‘holonomy’.  In addition to parallelism, relationalism appears in (1) geometrodynamic monism, (2) bootstrap interpenetration, (3) Helier Robinson’s metaphysics, and (4) L.L. Whyte’s universalistic world view. [73]  Parallelism, geometrodynamic monism, bootstrap interpenetration have been discussed at length in this paper.  I want to add a brief note on relational metaphysics and the relational world view.

Helier Robinson has proposed a relational metaphysics which, he argues, reflects and is consistent with contemporary physical science.  His system turns out to be a bootstrap one.  The universe is conceived as a ‘singular possibility’; it is the best of all possible worlds in the sense (recall Chew) that it is the only world possible.  Reality is a ‘single polyadic relation’. [74]  Robinson does not refer to parallelism, nor does his work suggest ways of avoiding the pitfalls I have pointed out.  The fact, however, that he arrives at ideas consistent with parallelism and based on relationalism at least strengthens the imperative for critical studies of parallelism, and reinforces the notion of an emergent relational view of reality.

L.L. Whyte has stressed precisely the relational hypothesis I am considering.  He conceives a change in our view of reality which will emphasize ‘hierarchies of morphic process,’ and the human being as a ‘coordinated organism’.  His view of healthy, joyful human beings ‘perpetually creating new unities’ echoes Bohm’s conception of holonomy.  He also views the emerging unification of world views as one of ‘circular self consistency,’ a notion in line with Chew’s self-consistency hypothesis.  Whyte argues that twentieth-century scientific and philosophical thought has moved toward, but not yet culminated in, a truly relational theory.  Such a theory would mean, he writes,

that experienced qualities and measured quantities could both be derived from a single basis, particular qualities being experienced and quantities measured in certain contrasted circumstances. [75]


Changes in spatial relations, Whyte argues, can account for both subjectively experienced qualities and objectively measured quantities.  Relationalism implies an alteration in our view of what is ‘real,’ and of ‘existence’.  Whyte conceives this as a movement which will eliminate any remaining vestiges of classical mechanism.  This suggests what in Kuhn’s terms might represent a ‘paradigm shift,’ or in Holton’s terms the dialectic outcome of a cyclic struggle between thema and antithema.  This would be a significant development, signaling a ‘scientific revolution’; but, as I have already noted, we should be prepared to consider the possibility that relationalism portends a second scientific revolution.  Such a revolution would establish a new outlook on the nature of scientific inquiry (beyond a ‘paradigm shift’ that occurs within the boundaries of the scientific revolution associated with Newton, Galileo, et al.), and affect and integrate a broad, if not the full, range of modes of human inquiry.

We must, finally, consider the possibility that there is a social factor operating in parallelism.  This is an obvious imperative of the sociology of knowledge, but one that still lacks the strong foundation of a fully-articulated theory.  We have ‘paradigms’ such as Paul Forman’s excellent case study of the link between quantum theory and Weimar culture, and Lewis Feuer’s weaker analysis of the origins of Einstein’s theories in ‘social relativity’. [76]  Is it possible that parallelism and relationalism reflect and generalize our increasing awareness of sociological and ecological phenomena?  Are these causally related, and if so which is cause and which effect?  Are these phenomena simultaneous effects of some underlying causal factor, perhaps a neurological one?  Or are they outside the realm of classical cause and effect, self-exemplifying the emergence and development of relationalism?  If a social force is indeed operative, is it one rooted in the evolution of our understanding of reality (for example sociology), or one that reflects a more immediate need to offset the disastrous human and environmental effects of unfettered individualism, and specialization without interdependence?  Obviously ‘social factor’ can involve all of these things, as well as be a part of a general trend toward relational theory and a relational perspective. [77]  These questions will be addressed in the second part of this paper.

Parallelism may be spurious.  It may, however, be a manifestation of emerging changes in the nature of science and, more broadly, the nature of inquiry.  Furthermore, it may be implicated in still


broader social and cultural dynamics which reflect the working out of contradictions in prevailing social structures and value systems.  I have devoted my attention to the largely ignored pitfalls of parallelism.  The resolution of the more difficult problem of whether parallelism manifests, or is a symptom of, fundamental changes in science and society rests on attending more closely to the methods, logic, epistemology, substance, and social relations of parallelism.

[Part II of this paper, on ‘The Social Origins and Functions of Parallelism’, will appear in a future issue of Social Studies of Science.]



I am indebted to my RPI colleagues John Koller, John Schumacher, and Michael Zenzen in the philosophy department, and Joseph Brown in the history department, for their help and encouragement while I was preparing this paper.

1. Z.D. Sung, The Symbol of Yi King (Shanghai: The China Modern Education Company, 1934); George Beau, La médecine chinoise (Paris: Le Rayon de la Science, 1965).  The quality of this literature is indicated by Nathan Sivin’s characterization of Beau’s ‘announcement’ as “… a misinterpretation of a mistranslation of a ludicrously misdated text…”: ‘Preface’, N. Sivin and S. Nakayama (eds), Chinese Science (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1973), xv (footnote 2).

2. Lawrence LeShan, The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist (New York: Ballantine Books, 1975), see especially the two articles reprinted as Appendices C and D; Fritjol’ Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of ihe Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (Berkeley, Calif.: Shanibhala Publications, 1975, reprinted London: Collins/Fontana paperback, 1976); Abraham Maslow, The Psychology of Science (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1966), especially Chapter 10.  As an indication of the growing interest in parallelism among scientists, Jacob Needleman mentions a California physicist, who is attempting to ‘correlate and complement’ modern physics with the Vedas and William Blake’s poetry, a physicist in New York drawing parallels between quantum mechanics and the teachings of the Tibetan lama Chogyarn Trungpa, and a third physicist writing on the principles of physics in light of his understanding of Hinduism based on experiences in Transcendental Meditation; see J. Needleman, A Sense of the Cosmos: The Encounter of Modern Science and Ancient Truth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1957), 104.

3. WI. Thompson, the founding director of Lindisfarne (named after the medieval monastic school founded by St Aidan), describes this community in his Passages About Earth (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 187-93.


4. See, for example, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Science and the Common Understanding (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 8-9; Niels Bohr, Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge (New York: John Wiley, 1958), 20; W. Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1958), 202; C.H. Townes, ‘The Convergence of Science and Religion,’ Zygon, Vol. 1, No. 3(September 1966), 301-1l.

5. Jean-Pierre Vigier, ‘Possible Internal Subquantum Motions of Elementary Particles’, in W. Yourgrau and A.D. Breck (eds), Physics, Logic and History (New York: Plenum Press, 1970), 191-202.  Vigier is one of the leading Critics of the Copenhagen interpretation in quantum theory, and one of David Bohm’s collaborators.

6. There are, of course, earlier examples of this sort of collaboration, notably the relationship between Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung: see W. Pauli, ‘Der Einfluss Archetypischer Forstellungen auf die Bildung Naturwissenschaftlicher Theorien bei Kepler,’ and C. Jung, ‘Synchronizitat als em Prinzip akausaler Zusammenhange’, both in W. Pauli and C. Jung, Naiurerklarung und Psyche, Studien aus de,n C.G. Jung-Institut, Vol. IV (Zurich, 1952); see also E. Wigner, Symmetries and Reflections (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1967), 186.

7. lan Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion (London: SCM Press, and New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966), 115-34.  Barbour uses the terms ‘religion’ and ‘theology’ synonymously.  Wisdom, religion, philosophy, thought and mysticism are used synonymously by parallelists, such as Carpra, who discuss Eastern culture.  The referent, however, is generally some form of spiritual experience or consciousness and the variety of terms used does not seem to affect parallelists’ arguments, or the criticisms that can be raised against them.

8. For examples of the neo-orthodox view see Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline (London: SCM Press, 1949): W.A. Whitehouse, Christian Faith and the Scientific Attitude (New York: Philosophical Library, 1952), and Albert van der Zeil, The Natural Sciences and the Christian Message (Minneapolis: Denison, 1960).  Kierkegaard is the seminal figure for the existential viewpoint.  For a contemporary example see M.H. Hartshorne, The Promise of Science and the Power of Faith (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958).  Linguistic analysis is outlined in T.R. Miles, Religion and the Scientific Outlook (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1959).

9. For a study of ‘virtuosi’ views on science and religion, see Richard Westfall, Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England (Ann Arbor, Mich: University of Michigan Press, 1973).  On modern ‘natural theology’ see Arthur Compton, The Human Meaning of Science (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1940); and Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1928), and Science and the Unseen World (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1929).

10. Barbour, op. cit. note 7, 127.  On liberal theology, see Harold DeWolf, The Case for Theology in Liberal Perspective (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1959).

11. A.N. Whitehead, Process and Reality (New York: Macmillan, 1929); Science and the Modern World (New York: Meridian, 1926); and Religion in the Making (New York: Meridian, 1926).

12. R.G.H. Siu, The Tao of Science (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1957).

13. Capra, op. cit. note 2, 160.  Whether, in fact, Bohr’s acknowledgement reveals a true parallel between complementarity and yin-yang is one of the issues addressed in this paper.  Bohr’s awareness of apparent Eastern parallels to physics is,


however, widely recognized: for example C.A. Hooker, ‘The Nature of Quantum Mechanical Reality: Einstein versus Bohr,’ in R.G. Colodny (ed.), Paradigm and Paradoxes (Pittsburgh, Penn.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972), 206-07.  Holton relates the coat-of-arms anecdote to support his contention that Bohr was aware of the antiquity of some roots of complementarity and deeply committed to the idea:  G. Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973), 121.  It should be stressed that Capra’s referent for ‘mysticism’ broadly encompasses religion, philosophy, thought, and wisdom.  Conze argues that up to about 1450 AD a ‘perennial philosophy’ dominated East and West.  Its basic doctrines were (1) there is a hierarchy of persons, some of whom can know more than others; (2) there are levels of reality, some more ‘real’ than others because they are more ‘exalted’; (3) ‘true reality’ is accessible to persons with extraordinary faculties through ‘prajna’ (Buddhism), ‘logos’ (Parmenides), ‘sophia’ (Aristotle), ‘amor dei intellectualis’ (Spinoza), ‘Vernunft’ (Hegel), etc.; and (4) ‘true teaching’ rests on the exemplary lives of charismatic exponents.  The special qualities of the perennial philosophy in India included yoga, as the root of ‘worth-while experience,’ ‘Karma’ and reincarnation.  After 1450, the East ‘rested’ on its ‘inherited capital’ and the West gave rise to an industrial, scientific-technological revolution and concomitantly to a ‘sciential’ philosophy: E. Conze, Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies (Columbia, SC; University of South Carolina Press, 1968), 213-15.  Cf. R. Otto, Mysticism East and West (New York: Macmillan, 1932), 5: Otto distinguishes Eastern and Western mysticism as ‘the two principal classic types,’ and points out their uniformities while challenging the assumption that mysticism is ‘one and ever the same’.  Smart argues that Western religion has been predominantly ‘numinous’ and Eastern religion predominantly ‘mystical’: N. Smart, Reasons and Faith (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958), World Religions: A Dialogue (Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1969), and The Concept of Worship (New York: Macmillan, 1972).  See the useful summary on this topic in Ian Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 78-79.

14. Cf. LeShan’s ‘quiz,’ in which the reader is required to assign unidentified quotations drawn from the writings of mystics and physicists to their appropriate categories.  The point of this ‘experiment,’ according to LeShan, is not to show that the task is ‘impossible,’ but rather that it is ‘difficult’: ‘This difficulty and necessity to think seriously about the correct classification for many of the quotations is, in itself, a good indication of the general similarity of conclusions reached by the two groups we are dealing with’ (op. cit. note 2, 269 and 253-76).  This is an interesting exercise, though not much of a challenge for anyone acquainted with the literature on mysticism and physics.  However, as in the case of other parallelists, LeShan does not alert his readers to the pitfalls of such comparisons.

15. K.W. Ford, The World of Elementary Particles (New York: Blaisdell, 1965), 209.

16. Dance imagery is not uncommon in mythical, religious, philosophical, and scientific discourses on reality.  Nor is such imagery in portraits of physical reality a novelty.  Leonardo da Vinci depicted the cosmos in an astral ballet, and wrote what Walter Sorell refers to, in his The Dancer’s Image (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), 254, as ‘the stunning aphorism, “Movement is the cause of all life”.’  The aphorism is translated as ‘The motive power is the cause of all life,’ in P. Taylor (ed.), The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (New York: The New American Library, 1960), 196.

17. W. Thirring, ‘Urbausteine der Materie,’ Almanach der Oserreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vol. 118 (Vienna, 1968), 159. Chang Tsai is quoted


in J. Needham, Science and Civilization in China, Vol. IV, Part I, Section 26 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 33.  Needham notes that ch’i, ‘matter-energy’ in modern terms, is one of the two fundamental concepts underlying the Neo-Confucian view of the universe; the other is li, ‘the principle of organization and pattern in all its forms’: J. Needham, The Grand Titration (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), 250-51.  As one of the fundamental ideas in Taoist literature, ch’i has been variously translated as ‘passion nature,’ ‘material principle,’ ‘constitutive ethers,’ ‘force, energy, breath, power,’ ‘ether or force,’ ‘the great breath of the universe’, and so on.  Siu notes, in his own words, Chu Hsi’s (1130-1200) elaboration of Chang Tsai’s notion of the condensation of ch’i: ‘The universe is formed by the ch’i, as activating essence, putting the li, as ultimate reason or purpose into concrete form’; R.G.H. Siu, Ch’i: A Neo-Taoist Approach to Life (Cambridge, Mass.: MiT Press, 1974), 256-57.  In his own exercise in parallelism, Siu contends that ‘Light itself consists of energy and ch’i.  Quantum properties of light are the refractions of its mass-energy component.  Continua are the refractions of its massless ch’i.  It’s no wonder that a Sanskrit root for Time is Light’ (ibid., 17-18, 265-66).

18. G.F. Chew, S-Matrix Theory of Strong Interactions (New York: WA. Ben­jamin, 1962); Strong-Interaction Physics (New York: WA. Benjamin, 1964); The Analytic S-Matrix: A Basis for Nuclear Democracy (New York: W.A. Benjamin, 1966); “Bootstrap”: A Scientific idea?’, Science, Vol. 161 (23 May 1968), 762-65; ‘Hadron Bootstrap: Triumph or Frustration?’, Physics Today, Vol. 23 (October 1970), 23-28.

19. S-matrix theory is one of the three main theories guiding work in elementary particle physics.  The other two are field theory and group theory.  J.A. Wheeler defined the S-matrix in 1937, and in 1943 Heisenberg suggested it might be able to play a fundamental role in quantum physics.  Their inability to compute interparticle forces led Heisenberg and other S-matrix students to abandon this line of inquiry.  Gell-Mann, Landau, and Mandelstam later revived interest in the theory.  Chew was one of the persons responsible for freeing S-matrix theory fully from its link with field theory by adding a postulate of analyticity to Heisenberg’s S-matrix notions (Chew, op. cit. note 18 [1966], 4).  The ‘S’ in S-matrix stands for ‘Streu’, the German word for ‘scatter’.  The mathematics of the S-matrix is elementary (the standard theory of analytic functions of complex variables) in contrast to field theory (the most mathematically rigorous and physically remote of the three theories) and group theory.  S-matrix theory relies heavily on experimental data; it is so closely tied to experiment, in fact, that some critics (Chew characterizes them as ‘uninitiated’) have dismissed it as contentless ‘sophisticated phenomenology’ (ibid., 99); see F.J. Dyson, ‘Mathematics in the Physical Sciences,’ in Committee on Support of Research in the Mathematical Sciences (eds), The Mathematical Sciences (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969), 97-115.  The goal of the S-matrix theory of strong interactions is, ‘... given certain symmetries, to predict all the observed particles, together with masses and mutual interactions, in terms of a single constant with the dimensions of length’.  No arbitrary dimensionless constant should be introduced.  Technically, this goal is stated in the form of a postulate: ‘The S-matrix is a Lorentz-invariant analytic function of all momentum variables with only those singularities required by unitarity’ (Chew, op. cit. note 18 [1962], 1-3).  These formal ideas are reflected in the formulation of the bootstrap model that follows.

20. Chew, op. cit. note 18 (1964), 106.

21. ‘Nuclear democracy’ describes the notion that hadrons are composite, or


bound, states which exist entirely by virtue of Yukawa-type forces.  In S-matrix terminology, each nuclear particle in a dynamic-governed nuclear democracy ‘… is conjectured to be a bound state of those S-matrix channels with which it communicates, arising from forces associated with the exchange of particles that communicate with “crossed” channels. . .‘ (Chew, ibid., 105-06).

22, The reasons underlying the controversy between bootstrappers and fundamentalists are discussed by G. Feinberg in ‘The Philosophical Implications of Contemporary Physics,’ in Colodny (ed.), op. cit. note 13, 33-46.  R. Feynman, expressing the fundamentalist view, describes the bootstrap notion as something that sounds like wagging the dog by the tail’, in his The Character of Physical Law (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1967), 167.

23. The two principal schools of Buddhist thought are the Hinayana and the Mahayana.  Hinayana Buddhism, the ‘orthodox’ branch, became established in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Burma, and Thailand.  Mahayana Buddhism developed in Nepal, Tibet, China, and Japan, and is generally considered the more important and philosophically interesting of the two schools.  The culmination of Buddhist thought in the Mahayana school occurs, according to Suzuki, in the Hua-Yen school created by Chinese translators and interpreters of the Avatamsaka Sutra during the T’ang Dynasty.  Hua-Yen (or Hwa-Yen, following G.C.C. Chang) means ‘flower decorations,’ or ‘garland’; the Avatamsaka Sutra is known as The Garland Sutra: see D.T. Suzuki, On Indian Mahayana Buddhism (New York: Harper & Row, 1968); Garma C.C. Chang, The Buddhist Teaching of Totality: The Philosophy of Hwa-Yen Buddhism (University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1971).  On the problem of deciding which of the numerous presentations of the Buddha’s thought is the ‘most authentic’ - the Buddhism of the Pala period, Yogacarins, the Pali Canon, the scholastic Hinayana and the later logicians, early Mahayana and Zen, the Saddharmapundarika, and so on - see Conze, op. cit. note 13, 213.

24. Capra, op. cit. note 2, 295, 296.  In Chang’s description of this metaphor, the mutual reflection forms a ‘realms-embracing-realms-net’ within each jewel or pearl: the metaphor illustrates ‘… the mutual penetration and the containment of Totality of the Hwa Yen Dharmadhatu’ (Chang, op. cit. note 23, 255).  ‘Dharmadhatu’ refers to the Infinity and Totality of the Domain of Buddha.

25. Chew, op. cit. note 18 (1968), 763; Wigner, op. cit. note 6, 172.

26. Though Needham’s work has been widely and properly applauded, some strong criticisms have been levelled at his claims.  I have commented on the Needham case at length in S. Restivo, ‘Joseph Needham and the Comparative Sociology of Chinese and Modern Science,’ forthcoming in R.A. Jones (ed), Research in Sociology of Knowledge, Sciences, and Art, Vol. II (Greenwich, Conn.: JAL Press, 1978).

27. The outstanding nineteenth-century scholar, E.B. Cowell, has some brief but instructive remarks on translating Buddhist Mahayana texts in his introduction to Part I of E.B. Cowell, F.M. Muller, and J. Takakusu (eds and trans.), Buddhist Mahayana Texts (New York: Dover, 1969: an unabridged and unaltered republication of Volume XLIX in ‘The Sacred Books of the East’ series published in 1894 by the Clarendon Press at Oxford), vi-x.  On the problems of translating Indian texts, see C.A. Moore, ‘Preface’ in S. Radhakrishnan and CA. Moore (eds), A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957), ix-xiv.


28. Feynman, op. cit. note 22, 39-41; for a defence of the view that scientific ‘understanding’ (establishing in our minds the ‘compelling reasonableness’ of phenomena) entails framing models and visualization, see C.W. Rietdijk, On Waves, Particles, and Hidden Variables (Assen, Holland: Van Gorcum, 1971), I-IV. Rietdijk joins Bohm and others in arguing that however useful the reliance on formalisms and algorithms (for example the manipulation of operators and matrices) may be, it is not a substitute for understanding.

29. See my discussion of the culture-and-cognition problem in Restivo, op. cit. note 26; and W.V.O. Quine’s comments on language in ‘Existence,’ in Yourgrau and Breck (eds), op. cit. note 5, 89-103.

30. The ‘imageless’ mystical experience may be, as G. Scholem contends, ‘only a fleeting moment of amorphous illumination’: ‘Mysticism and Society,’ Diogenes, No. 58 (Summer 1967), 2-3.  Once this has passed, the fact that the mystic has a social heritage, including a language, makes its full force felt - and the experience can be written or spoken about.  See the discussion below on symbolic and non-symbolic consciousness.

31. The ‘eightfold way’ was conceived independently by Gell-Mann, who christened the approach, and Yuval Ne’eman.  It emerged out of (1) the search for a ‘global’ symmetry to relate the eight g1 . . .g8 independent couplings which describe the Yukawa-like strong interactions; (2) the need to fix parities; and (3) the search for missing terms in the study of strong-interaction symmetries.  In the eightfold way treatment, the eight baryons are assumed to form a supermultiplet, degenerate with respect to the limit of a certain symmetry, and split by dynamical interactions into isotopic multiplets.  The bootstrap approach is considered one possible replacement for the eightfold way, but Gell-Mann sees no reason why the bootstrap cannot be “... embedded in an abstract local field theory…”: M. Gell-Mann and Y. Ne’eman (editors and contributors), The Eightfold Way (New York: WA. Benjamin, 1964), 9-10, 117.  Chew, on the other hand, has suggested that it might be possible to achieve all the significant predictions of local-field theories within a pure S-matrix theory (op. cit. note 18 [1968], 764).  See also G.F. Chew, M. Ge!l-Mann, and A.H. Rosenfeld, ‘Strongly Interacting Particles,’ Scientific American, Vol. 220, No. 2 (February 1964), 74-93.

32. J. Graves, The Conceptual Foundations of Contemporary Relativity Theory (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1971), 24-25.

33. Chang, op. cit. note 23, 66, 75; and Conze, op. cit. note 13, 213.  These problems are complicated by the insistence among some representatives of Eastern culture that their traditional systems of ideas and beliefs be treated as philosophies in the fullest sense: see, for example, Radhakrishnan and Moore (eds), op. cit. note 27, lx.

34. Cf. J. Ravetz, Scientific Knowledge and its Social Problems (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 175; and see W. T. Stace’s comments on mysticism and language in his Mysticism and Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1961), 277-306.

35. Capra refers to comments by D.R. Suzuki in the ‘Preface’ to B. L. Suzuki, Mahayana Buddhism (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1959), 33; and to a passage from the well-known 1908 lecture by Hermann Minkowski which appears in A. Einstein et al., The Principle of Relativity (New York: Dover, 1923), 75; see Chapter 12, ‘Space-Time,’ in Capra, op. cit. note 2, 161-87; and LeShan, op. cit. note 2, 26 1-63.

36. Graves, op. cit. note 32, 61.


37. CO. Evans, ‘Attention, Meaning and Altered States of Consciousness (Baton Rouge, Lo.: Department of Philosophy, Louisiana State University, undated mimeo).

38. M. Polanyi, Personal Knowledge (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1964), 55-65.

39. Chang, op. cit. note 23, 18-19.

40. From Bohr’s 1927 Como lecture, ‘The Quantum Postulate and the Recent Development of Atomic Theory,’ quoted in M. Jainmer, The Philosophy of Quantum, Mechanics (New York: John Wiley, 1974), 86-87.

41. Representative publications include H.A. Bedau, ‘Complementarity and the Relation Between Science and Religion,’ Zygon, Vol. 9, No. 3 (September 1974), 202-23; DM. MacKay, ‘ “Complementarity” in Scientific and Theological Thinking,’ Zygon, Vol. 9, No. 3 (September 1974), 225-44; and W.H. Austin, ‘Complementarity and Theological Paradox,’ Zygon, Vol. 2, No. 4 (December 1967), 365-81.  In a widely cited ‘classic,’ CA. Coulson, an Oxford mathematician, defended the view that science and religion are alternative but complementary forms of truth, in Christianity in an Age of Science (London: Oxford University Press, 1953).  More recently, Ian Barbour has suggested that complementarity is applicable within religious traditions, which are characterized by a shared paradigm, but not to ideas from different traditions, such as the Hindu Brahman and the Christian God (op. cit. note 13, 84-91).

42. Jammer, op. cit. note 40, 95, contends that the closest Bohr came to an explicit definition of complementarity was in 1929, when he wrote that the quantum postulate ‘… forces us to adopt a new mode of description designated as complementary in the sense that any given application of classical concepts precludes the simultaneous use of other classical concepts which in a different connection are equally necessary for the elucidation of phenomena’: N. Bohr, Alometeori og Naiurbeskrivelse (Copenhagen: Lunos Bogtrykkeri, 1929).  Einstein’s remarks appear in A. Einstein, Reply to Criticisms,’ in P.A. Schilpp (ed), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), 663-88.  On von Weizsacker’s experience, see Jammer, op. cit. note 40, 89-90.  It is interesting that even critics of the application of complementarity outside of physics sometimes fail to note the ambiguity and vagueness surrounding the principle: for example J.L. Park, ‘Complementarity Without Paradox: A Physicist’s Reply to Professor Austin,’ Zygon, Vol. 2, No. 4 (December 1967), 382-88.

43. Jammer, op. cit. note 40, 91, 96, 104-07.  See also Jammer’s discussion (ibid., 103-04) of von Weisacker’s distinction between parallel complementarity (relevant in the case of position and momentum) and circular complementarity (relevant in the case of the Schrodinger function, and the space-time description).  Bohr, a circular complementarist in von Weizsäcker’s terms, rejected this distinction in arguing that complementarity is only applicable between phenomena.  Jammer’s interpretations are generally supported by Bohr’s outstanding student, L. Rosenfeld, in, for example, ‘Foundations of Quantum Theory and Complementarity,’ Nature, Vol. 190 (29 April 1961), 384-88; cf. the statement by L. DeBroglie, ‘The wave and corpuscular properties never enter into conflict because they never exist at the same time’, in his The Revolution in Physics (New York: Noonday Press, 1953), 218.

44. Austin, op. cit. note 41; and Park, op. cit. note 42.

45. See, for example, Colodny’s edited volume on ‘paradigms and paradoxes,’ op. cit. note 13; the references to paradoxes in A. Einstein, ‘Autobiographical


Notes,’ in Schilpp (ed.), op. cit. note 42; Parl Chambadal’s Paradoxes in Physics (London: Transworld, 1973); and Y. Terletskii’s Paradoxes in the Theory of Relativity (New York: Plenum Press, 1968).  D. Finkeistein suggests that quantum physics generates paradoxes because (1) quantum mechanical systems generally fail to obey the distributive law of classical logic, and (2) the elements of a Boolean algebra cannot be used to represent the empirical calculus of classes in such systems: see Finkelstein, ‘The Physics of Logic,’ in Colodny (ed.), op. cit. note 13, 57; cf. D. Bohm, Quantum Theory (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1951), 142, 168.

46. B. D’Espagnat, Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (Menlo Park, Calif.: WA. Benjamin, Inc., 1971), 413.

47. B. Kuznetsov, ‘Quantum-Relativistic Retrospection and the History of Classical Physics: Classical Rationalism and Nonclassical Science,’ in R. McCormmach (ed), Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, Vol. 3 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971), 117.  Kuznetsov notes that Bohr’s ‘foolishness’ and Einstein’s ‘miracles’ are roughly equivalent.  Terletskii, op. cit. note 45, 1, defines paradoxes as unexpected consequences of a theory, and goes on to note that the resolution of paradoxes is a factor in the evolution of theories.  It might be argued that there is a parallel between ‘enlightenment’ and Terletskii’s conception of the functions of paradox in physics.  Mystics who view ‘enlightenment’ as a higher form of comprehension and consciousness than scientific knowledge might consider such a parallelism spurious at best: cf. Idries Shah, The Way of the Sufi (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1970), 26-27.

48. Chang, op. cit. note 23, x.  See also W.T. Stace, op. cit. note 34, 251-71 for a view of mystical paradoxes as logical contradictions.

49. Capra, op. cit. note 2, 130, 140, and 289.

50. Chang, op. cit. note 23, 253 (dependent-arising), 257 (mutual entering), and 261 (Sunyata).  The Nagurjuna quote is from the Madhyamika-Karikas (The Middle-Way Stanzas), Chapter 24, Stanza 24 (ibid., 83).

51. Bohm, op. cit., note 45, 139, 140.

52. Jammer op. cit. note 40, 199; Graves, op. cit. note 32, 57ff, 154.  The term geometrodynamics is applied to post-Einstein developments in general relativity in the works of John Wheeler and others.  The introduction of the Tik tensor in general relativity theory has broken down the sharp conceptual distinction among mass, energy, momentum, stress, etc.  This is considered at some length by Terletskii, op. cit. note 45, 54, 60.  He points out that when, for example, the energy-mass equations are considered in a three-dimensional noncovariant formulation, inertial mass is conceived as a scalar varying with velocity; in a strictly relativistic four-dimensional theory, by contrast, there is only the concept of proper mass (M) inextricably linked to momentum and energy.  When E mc2 is considered in a strictly four-dimensional perspective, it must be written as a definition of the mass vector in terms of the energy vectors (that is Ek = mkc2), rather than a law relating two qualitatively different quantities.  From this perspective, energy and mass are different projections of the same physical quantity, and all the energy-mass equations (eg., E=mc2,


, where p=momentum, etc.) merely express the organic interrelationship between the concepts of mass,energy, and momentum’.


53. Graves, op. cit. note 32, 314.  In addition, there is ‘more grist’ in the widely unknown or unappreciated fact among persons with a lay interest in physics that the geometrodynamic interpretation presents general relativity as an already unified field theory.  It combines Einstein’s equations with the appropriate generally covariant form of Maxwell’s equations to give a theory in which gravitation and electromagnetism are represented as aspects of a single tensor field (ibid., 235-36).

54. Ibid., 315-17 (note again the congruence with the bootstrap hypothesis; Chang, op. cit. note 23, 11-12, 20-21).

55. Feinberg, op. cit. note 22, 33-46; cf. Bohm, op. cit. note 45, 168.

56. Holton, op. cit. note 13, 24-26.

57. G. Gale, ‘Chew’s Monadology,’ Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 35 (April-June 1974), 339-48.

58. Graves, op. cit. note 32, 216.  D’Espagnat, op. cit. note 46, 428, interestingly, refers to ‘physical reality’ as everything that strictly obeys the linear laws of quantum mechanics, a situation that holds as long as no consciousness comes into play.  It is important to note the conjunction between nonlinearity requirements and concerns about consciousness in the works of Chew, Wigner, and others; cf. Hooker, op. cit. note 13, 208.

59. D. Bohm, ‘Quantum Theory as an Indication of a New Order in Physics. Part A. The Development of New Orders as Shown Through the History of Physics,’ and ‘Part B. Implicate and Explicate Order in Physical Law,’ Foundations of Physics, Vol. 1, No. 4 (1971), 359-81; and Vol. 3 No. 2 (1973), 139-68; see especially Part B, 143-47; cf. Jan Smuts, Holism and Evolution (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973), a reprint of the 1926 edition published by Macmillan Ltd. of London.

60. Siu, op. cit. note 12, 69-84.

61. W. Ten Houten and C.D. Kaplan, Science and Its Mirror Image(New York: Harper and Row, 1973), 194-224.

62. I suggested this in S. Restivo, ‘Towards a Sociology of Objectivity,’ Sociological Analysis and Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2 (June 1975), 172.

63. Split-brain research has stimulated the imaginations of social scientists and philosophers: see, for example, A. Paredes and M. Hepburn, ‘The Split-Brain and the Culture-and-Cognition Paradox,’ Current Anthropology, Vol. 17, No. 1 (March 1976), 12 1-27, and responses to this paper in subsequent issues; for speculations on the philosophical implications of split-brain research, see R. Puccetti, ‘Brain Bisection and Personal Identity,’ British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 24 (1973), 339-55; D. Robinson, ‘What Sort of Persons are Hemisphers? Another Look at “Split-Brain” Man’, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 27 (1976), 73-78.  LW. Dewitt, in ‘Consciousness, Mind, and Self: The Implications of the Split-Brain Studies,’ British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 26 (1975), 45, argues that the right hemisphere lacks self-awareness, and suggests that the mystical experience is a right hemisphere phenomenon: this would explain, he speculates, the various mystical experiences of unity, ‘loss of self,’ and so on; see also R. Puccetti, ‘The Mute Self: A Reaction to Dewitt’s Alternative Account of the Split-Brain Data,’ British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 27 (1976), 65-73.  It is also relevant to consider the interest being expressed by historians of science such as R. Westfall, P. Casini, Marie Boas Hall, P. Rossi, and A.R. Hall in the relationship between mysticism and rationality in the emergence of modern


science, especially in the works and lives of individual scientists such as Kepler and Newton: see M.L.R. Bonelli and W.R. Shea (eds.), Reason, Experiment, and Mysticism (New York: Science History Publications, 1975).  Having raised this issue, and given the Ten Houten-Kaplan theory of inquiry and related developments, it appears that historians of science have also raised the question of whether the ‘mixture’ of mysticism and reason was a seventeenth-century peculiarity or a sine qua non of scientific progress temporarily obscured by the positivistic emphasis in modern science.

64. Needleman, op. cit. note 2, 105; T. Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1973), 417.  Consider, furthermore, Needleman’s indicting query: how can we be sure that ‘….the ideas of Eastern religion are being understood rightly by men who have in their hands the conceptual tools, and, indirectly, the machinery to alter the physical and biological environment of the human race?’ (op. cit. note 2, 104-05).

65. Holton, op. cit. note 13, 275-80; C.A. Hooker, ‘Philosophy and Meta-Philosophy of Science: Empiricism, Popperianism and Realism,’ Synthese, Vol. 32 (1975), 177-23 1; R. Ravindra, ‘Experiment and Experience: A Critique of Modern Scientific Knowing,’ Daihousie Review, Vol. 55 (1975-76), 670; cf. C.T. Tart, States of Consciousness and State-Specific Sciences’, in R.E. Ornstein (ed.), The Nature of Human Consciousness (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1973), 41-66.

66. See J.J.C. Smart, Philosophy and Scientific Realism (New York: Humanities Press, 1963) for an account of Scientific Realism: Graves, op. cit. note 32, 7, adopts a realist position which is exemplary for physics.

67. D’Espagnat, op. cit. note 46, 420, for one, supports Capra’s view of the centrality of observation in modern physics.  Cf. Capra’s reference to Korzbkski’s analogy of the map (ordinary language) and the territory (physical reality) (op. cit. note 2, 33).  The relationship between symbols and experiences is more complicated and problematic than Capra seems to realize.

68. Cf. Sivin, op. cit. note 1, xiv-xviii.

69. Bohm, op. cit. note 45, 169-71.

70. Cf. ibid., 168.

71. Capra, op. cit. note 2, 142.

72. Ibid., 25.

73. See, respectively, (1) Graves, op. cit. note 32, (2) Chew, op. cit. note 18 (various citations), (3) H. Robinson, Renascent Relationalism (Toronto: Macmillan, 1975), and (4) L.L. Whyte, The Universe of Experience: A World View Beyond Science and Religion (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1974).  The search for unified theories in physical science, social science and science in general may also be considered a manifestation of a relational imperative: see Hooker, op. cit. note 65; and S. Restivo, ‘Elements of a General Theory of Macrosociology,’ International Journal of Contemporary Sociology (forthcoming).

74. Robinson, op. cit. note 73, 106-07.

75. Whyte, op. cit. note 73, 120; 64; and 141-42 (fn 5).

76. P. Forman, ‘Weimar Culture, Causality, and Quantum Theory, 1918-1927: Adaptation by German Physicists and Mathematicians to a Hostile Intellectual Environment,’ in R. McCormmach (ed.), Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, Vol. 3 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971), 1-115; L. Feuer, Einstein and the Generation of Science (New York: Basic Books, 1974).  For an example


of how ‘radicals’ are exploring the social roots of scientific concepts (and thus trying to realize the implications of the sociology of science and knowledge more fully than most of their more ‘established’ colleagues), see L. Hodgkin, ‘Politics and Physical Sciences,’ Radical Science Journal, No. 4(1976), 29-60.  See also E. Frankel, ‘Corpuscular Optics and the Wave Theory of Light: The Science and Politics of a Revolution in Physics,’ Social Studies of Science, Vol. 6, No. 2 (May 1976), 141-84: this is an excellent paper in which the limits of externalist and internalist approaches are nicely explored and integrated into a convincing descriptive and interpretative framework.

77. This can be related to the viewpoint expressed by many contemporary scholars on the imperative of unity in our time: see, with special reference to the unity of science and society, N. Sivin’s comments on China, op. cit. note I, xxx; and J. Needham’s somewhat less cautious remarks in ‘History and Human Values: A Chinese Perspective for World Science and Technology,’ Centennial Review, Vol. 20 (1976), 1-35. Cf. E.A. Tiryakian, ‘Toward the Sociology of Esoteric Culture,’ American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78, No. 3 (November 1972), 491-5 12.


Sal Restivo is Associate Professor of Sociology, and a member of the graduate faculty of the Center for the Study of the Human Dimensions of Science and Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is co-editor (with C.K. Vanderpool) and a contributor to Comparative Studies in Science and Society (1974). His most recent publications, forthcoming this year, include ‘Holonomy in Physics and Society’ (with M. Zenzen), Consciousness and Culture: ‘Joseph Needham and the Comparative Sociology of Chinese and Modern Science’, in R.A. Jones (ed.), Research in the Sociology of Knowledge, Sciences and Art; and ‘An Evolutionary Sociology of Love’, International Journal of Sociology of the Family. Author’s address: Department of Anthropology and Sociology, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York 12181, USA.